Opinion

What the Crusades tell us about shifting borders in the Middle East

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The Levant, the region running inland from the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean, has been fought over for millennia. Its vital trade and military roads linking Anatolia to north Africa and Arabia have been guarded and coveted since time immemorial. Control is everything, as Moses found out to his cost when he wanted to move north up the ancient King’s Highway out of the Sinai and into Edom (modern day southern Israel):

“Now let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or vineyard, or drink water from any well; we will go along the King’s Highway, not turning aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.” But Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through, or we will come out with the sword against you.” The Israelites said to him, “We will stay on the highway; and if we drink of your water, we and our livestock, then we will pay for it. It is only a small matter; just let us pass through on foot.” But he said, “You shall not pass through.” And Edom came out against them with a large force, heavily armed. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through their territory; so Israel turned away from them.
(Numbers 20:17–21)

Countless cultures have fought for dominance in the region — Canaanite, Philistine, Hebrew, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, Seljuk, crusader, Ayyubid, Khwarazmian, Mamluk, Ottoman, British, French, Jewish, the list goes on. Most of the conquests have been bloody. All have caused regional upheavals. Some have spread even further, sending international shockwaves east and west.

This week marks two major anniversaries of crusader history, both of which had a profound impact on the whole of Europe. On 4 July 1187, Saladin crushed the crusaders at the battle of the Horns of Hattin — one of the most important military encounters of the medieval world. Ninety years later, on 1 July 1277, Sultan al-Malik Baybars died. Although less well known in the West than Saladin, Baybars was a far more brutal and effective warlord. It was his devastating campaigns that finally ripped the heart out of the crusades, propelling the whole project into its darkening, twilight years.

When the crusaders had first conquered Jerusalem in 1099, waves of elation crashed across Latin Christendom. Jerusalem was the umbilicus mundi, the centre of Europe’s conception of the world as depicted in medieval maps like Hereford’s glorious Mappa Mundi. God clearly favoured the Christian settlers, and had given their armies Jerusalem to prove it.

The crusades were not the first time Jerusalem was under Christian rule. The Holy Land had been Christian in the days of the Byzantine Empire (c. AD 325–637). Emperor Constantine the Great and Empress Helena had Christianised the city, renaming it “Jerusalem” and wiping out the pagan remains of Aelia Capitolina built by Hadrian in AD 130 on the rubble of Jerusalem. At the heart of his new Jerusalem, Constantine built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and made it the pre-eminent Christian pilgrimage destination. However, since the Rashidun Caliphate under Umar the Great had conquered the Near East in AD 637, Jerusalem had been under Islamic rule.

Hand in hand with the crusaders’ initial elation in 1099 came the practical problem of controlling vast swathes of conquered territory far from home in their new land of “Outremer”, the place “beyond the sea”. The result was countless famous battles in which the pendulum swung one way then the other during the 192 years of crusader presence in the Levant. Although many of the engagements are still famous  — like Jacob’s Ford and the Field of Blood — the Horns of Hattin stands head and shoulders above them as one of the turning points of world history.

Map of the crusader states before Saladin’s conquests

Today, as the politically unrelated and separate conflicts in Syria and Iraq coalesce and evolve into an all-consuming regional power struggle, it is worth looking at the battle of the Horns of Hattin as a reminder of the region’s merciless ability to keep redrawing its borders and reinventing itself in blood.

First, put Ridley Scott’s epic 2005 film, Kingdom of Heaven, out of mind. It excels in evoking the existential crisis of the crusader kingdom at the tail end of the reign of the leper king, Baldwin IV. And it is a seductive and visually sumptuous world, where faith, honour, ideals, and love vie alongside ambition, bloodlust, venality, and the ugly side of unchecked militarism. But it is not a faithful account of the events leading up to the cataclysmic battle of Hattin and Balian of Ibelin’s doomed defence of Jerusalem. For a start, the real Balian was 44 years old at Hattin, did not know one end of an anvil from the other, was married to a member of the Byzantine royal family, and was born and lived his whole life as a powerful, wealthy noble in the crusader states.

The true story of Hattin is nevertheless every bit as soaked in romance and ambition as Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven.

Some years earlier, Lucia of Botrun, a beautiful and wealthy Levantine heiress, was ignominiously placed onto a huge set of scales and publicly weighed. A merchant from Pisa piled up the pan on the other side with gold bezants until he had measured out her weight in gold, which he then gave to her overlord as payment for her hand in marriage. In the wings, a headstrong Flemish crusader, Gerard de Ridefort, vowed revenge. He had previously asked Lucia’s overlord, Count Raymond III of Tripoli (of Toulouse) for her hand, but his request was refused. Despite the fact Raymond was one of the kingdom’s wisest and coolest heads, Gerard immediately left Raymond’s service, nursing a grievance that would lead to the downfall of a kingdom.

After recovering from a serious illness, or perhaps sensing faster promotion as a professional crusader, Gerard soon took the dramatic step of professing solemn monastic vows as a Knight Templar, devoting himself to a celibate community life of praying and fighting. His exceptional abilities were quickly recognised, and he rose swiftly through the Order’s ranks to become their tenth Grand Master. This unique position gave him privileged access to Christendom’s royalty — especially in Jerusalem — an influence he used, among other things, to oppose and thwart Raymond whenever he could.

In 1185, on the death of the leper King Baldwin IV, his seven-year-old nephew took the throne under the regency of Raymond. But when the young king died within a year, the crown passed to his mother and step-father: Sibylla of Jerusalem and Guy of Lusignan. The kingdom promptly tore itself into two poisonously opposed factions — those like Gerard de Ridefort and the Templars who supported Queen Sibylla and King Guy, and those like Count Raymond who backed Isabella, Sibylla’s half-sister.

With the kingdom hopelessly divided, the scene was set for a catastrophe. It just needed someone to light the touchpaper.

King Guy counted among his camp a maverick one-man army: Raynald of Châtillon, “the Elephant of Christ”. Raynald had been in the crusader states since the second crusade, and had spent 15 years in a Muslim jail before leading the crusader forces to a spectacular victory against Saladin at the fêted battle of Montgisard, Saladin’s most crushing defeat. Raynald was therefore a seasoned operator in the region, and had been rewarded with the lordship of Oultrejourdain (the lands beyond the River Jordan). However, he is usually most often remembered for his cruelty, endless piracy and plundering, unwillingness to obey kings, and repeated breaking of delicate truces to the annoyance of all sides.

In 1187, when Raynald again broke a truce and attacked yet another Muslim caravan travelling the King’s Highway near his Red Sea outpost at Kerak, Saladin could stand by no longer. He declared the truce to be a sham, and led an invasion army across the Jordan. Raynald’s lawlessness had finally provoked the largest united Muslim force the crusaders had ever seen.

The end began quickly. On 1 May 1187, at the Springs of Cresson near Nazareth, a small group of around 140 Templars and Hospitallers found themselves confronting a 7.000-strong detachment of the Muslim army under al-Afdal, Saladin’s son. The master of the Hospitallers and several senior Templars counselled retreat, but Gerard de Ridefort accused them of cowardice and ordered an attack. The result was a charnel house. Gerard de Ridefort and two other Templars were the only known survivors.

Back in Jerusalem. King Guy and the royal court knew that a full-scale onslaught from Saladin’s 30,000 men was now imminent. All they could do was wait to see where it would come.

Saladin made the first move. He advanced to Tiberias on the west shore of the Sea of Galilee. The castle belonged to Count Raymond III of Tripoli, who was away with the royal court, leaving it garrisoned by Eschiva, his wife.

On 2 July, King Guy held a war council to decide on a response. And it was here, at this critical moment in the history of the crusader kingdom, that the memory of Lucia of Botrun on the gold scales filled the room. Count Raymond calmly advised King Guy that Saladin was setting a trap, trying to get the crusaders to leave the safety and water of Sepphoris. He was, Raymond explained, hoping to lure the crusaders onto arid open ground where the Muslims’ numerical advantage could be best used. But whatever Raymond said was always wrong in the eyes of Gerard de Ridefort and Raynald of Châtillon, who shouted him down, accusing him of cowardice. They argued long into the night that King Guy should immediately lead the crusaders to march on Tiberias. In undoubtedly the worst decision of his life, Guy allowed himself to be persuaded by Gerard and Raynald, and ordered the army to ready itself. He was a politician not a soldier, and his lack of experience was about to cost the crusaders dearly.

The following day, 3 July, the pride of the crusading army thundered out of the springs of Sepphoris heading east for Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee. From the moment they left, the outcome was sealed. Saladin had to do very little. The summer heat was unbearable, and the mail-clad crusaders lacked water. To make them even thirstier, Saladin lit brushwood fires around them, engulfing the advancing columns in clouds of billowing smoke. Panicked, choking, and dehydrated, the crusader army broke apart, allowing Saladin to encircle them. The crusaders were finally corralled on the two hills known as the Horns of Hattin, just six miles short of Tiberias, where the massacre began.

Map of the battle of the Horns of Hattin (from arsbellica)

King Guy, Gerard de Ridefort, and Raynald of Châtillon were all taken prisoner. The crusaders’ most sacred relic, the True Cross discovered by the Empress Helena in the AD 320s, was also captured, taken in triumph to Damascus, and never seen again.

As depicted in Kingdom of Heaven, Saladin invited King Guy and Raynald of Châtillon into his tent, where he offered a groggy Guy a cup of iced water to slake his thirst. When Guy then passed the cup to Raynald, Saladin responded that he had not personally offered refreshment to Raynald, and was therefore not bound by any rules of hospitality towards him. He asked Raynald why he had broken so many oaths over the years. Raynald replied that kings had always acted thus, and he had done no more. Saladin then personally beheaded Raynald, before dragging his decapitated body over to a terrified Guy. “Kings do not kill kings”, he reassured Guy, but explained that Raynald was an oath-breaker whose repeated “maleficence and perfidy” had warranted immediate death.

Guy and the other captured nobles were all eventually ransomed, apart from the 230 Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller whom Saladin judged too militarily dangerous to be allowed freedom. He ordered them beheaded on the spot:

With him was a whole band of scholars and sufis and a certain number of devout men and ascetics, each begged to be allowed to kill one of them, and drew his sword and rolled back his sleeve. Saladin, his face joyful, was sitting on his dais, the unbelievers showed black despair.
(Imad ad-Din, On the Conquest of the Holy City)

With their army decimated, the crusaders could only watch as one by one their cities then fell. Queen Sibylla and Patriarch Heraclius mounted a last-ditch defence of Jerusalem, before roping in Balian of Ibelin, who had dropped by to collect his family. Balian’s involvement was in strict defiance of an oath of non-belligerence he had given Saladin in order to be allowed to travel to Jerusalem, but he wrote to Saladin to explain his predicament, and Saladin seemed happy for Balian to try to organise Jerusalem’s defences. In any event, they both knew Jerusalem could not withstand a siege. Balian had only a handful of knights, so spontaneously knighted the city’s squires to help in the effort. But it was largely symbolic. On 2 October, Balian went to Saladin’s tent. Saladin confirmed that he had sworn to kill all Jerusalem’s men and to enslave the women and children. In response, Balian threatened to execute the 5,000 Muslim prisoners in Jerusalem, kill the crusaders’ families and livestock, destroy all treasures, and raze the al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock to the ground before he and the men marched out to meet their glorious deaths at Saladin’s hands. Unnerved, Saladin suggested a peaceful surrender, which Balian accepted. Saladin then granted safe passage to all inhabitants who could pay their way, and sold the remaining men, women, and children into slavery.

The reaction across Christendom was utter disbelief. It was unthinkable that Jerusalem was no longer a Christian city. Four generations of Western children had grown up knowing that Jerusalem was part of Christendom. The grief at losing it tore deep into the soul of the West. On hearing the news, Pope Urban III died of shock. Within two years, Europe’s leading warrior, Richard the Lionheart, was personally in Outremer to set things right. But the tide had turned, and he failed ever to set eyes on Jerusalem.

Although the crusader states would limp on for another 105 years from their new headquarters at Tyre and then at Acre, medieval Christendom never again owned Jerusalem outright, and life became immeasurably harsher for the remaining crusaders and settlers — notably as a result of the campaigns of Sultan al-Malik Baybars, who died on 1 July 1277, providing the other major Levantine anniversary this week.

Unlike any of the crusaders’ previous opponents, Baybars was a military machine. On some levels, Saladin was not an especially talented general — over the course of 17 years of campaigning against the crusaders, he was regularly not successful on the battlefield. Baybars, on the other hand, was a highly effective general. He rose to power by murdering two Sultans of Egypt (including the last Ayyubid of Saladin’s dynasty), before finally taking personal control as Sultan, leading a hardened army of Mamluks from Egypt and Syria. He was a warlord who had built Egypt’s military caste of slave soldiers (mamluk means slave) into a juggernaut that dominated without opposition, steamrollering both the crusaders and the Mongols invading from the east. To put that into perspective, the Mongols had recently blitzkrieged their way from China to Poland, slaughtering entire populations. No terror like it had ever been seen. In many cities, there was no one left to clear away the mountains of rotting bodies. When Baybars and his Mamluks defeated them in AD 1260 at Ain Jalut (in the Jezreel Valley, Galilee), it was the first time the massed Mongol forces had ever been convincingly beaten. It is little wonder that the Islamic world has always told stories of Baybars, whereas Saladin fell into relative obscurity until resuscitated by Western interest.

Saladin may have broken the crusaders’ hearts, but it was Baybars who effectively snuffed out the crusade movement. As the news from Syria and Iraq in the last few weeks now makes clear, the complexion of the Levant region is changing again. The vacuum in Iraq and the disintegration of society in Syria have created new groups, alliances, and interests. We do well to remember that the region is one where nothing has ever stood still for long.

in The Telegraph

by: Dominic Selwood
Dr Dominic Selwood is a former criminal barrister, novelist and historian with a passion for the less visited corners of the archives. He is the author of the crypto-thriller, The Sword of Moses (2013), and the textbook on the Knights Templar, Knights of the Cloister (1999). He tweets as @DominicSelwood

How crusading Templars gave Bruce the edge at Bannockburn

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Bannockburn has long been heralded as Scotland’s finest victory over the Auld Enemy.

The battle has been celebrated in verse and song ever since Robert the Bruce defied the odds to send King Edward II’s army “hameward tae think again” in 1314.

However, a historian now claims the credit lies not with the Scots but with a band of Templar knights from overseas.

Robert Ferguson, an American lawyer, says a new “statistical analysis” shows that a significant number of Templars arrived in Scotland from other parts of Europe and that they tipped the balance in Bruce’s favour.

The King of France ordered the arrest of any Templars in his country in 1307 – seven years before Bannockburn – and Pope Clement later ordered all European monarchs to follow suit.

Ferguson claims, citing a statistician he hired for his research, that at least 29 battle-hardened knights and sergeants would have ended up in Scotland, based on 335 avoiding capture, and that they influenced Bruce’s tactics. And he argues that the real figure could even be as high as 48.

He said Bruce progressed with unusual speed from small encounters with the English to a full-blown battle at Bannockburn with properly armed men.

Ferguson says he has built up a convincing case from the circumstantial evidence that is available.

“Given the battle plan that is commonly accepted for Bannockburn, I believe that the Templars were necessary,” he said.

“The existence of Templars at Bannockburn follows a consistent line of facts.

“There is now good evidence that a number of Templars, if not most of them, were aware that they were going to be arrested, and they escaped. There’s only two places they really could escape to, Portugal and Scotland.”

Ferguson’s new claims are made in his book The Knights Templar And Scotland, which will be published in the new year by The History Press.

Ferguson is a Californian attorney, a former professor of astronomy, and a former vice-president of his local Clan Ferguson Society. His book comes with an endorsement from Raymond Morris, laird of 14th century Balgonie Castle in Fife, who claims to be the “Grand Prior of the Scots” Templars.

“Every Templar should read it,” said Morris.

There are several Templar groups in modern Scotland.

“I’ve got about 150 people in America of Scots ancestry,” said Morris.

But Ferguson’s claims were met with scorn yesterday by historian Helen Nicholson, who teaches medieval warfare at Cardiff University and is an expert on the Templars.

It has been claimed before that Templars took part in the battle, and Nicholson said Ferguson’s theories drew on discredited Victorian historical fantasies.

Nicholson said the idea was “hardly more credible” than old claims that the kingdom of Scotland was founded by the Egyptian princess Scota, and that Ferguson’s theories reheated an old slur on Bruce’s achievements.

“The myth is being used to show that Robert the Bruce was a weak man who couldn’t win his own battles, rather than the inspirational military leader that he was,” she said.

“I think that the Scots should be fighting this myth.”

Nicholson, author of The Knights Templar On Trial, bluntly said claims of Templars fighting at Bannockburn in 1314 were “rubbish”.

“There are no records of any French-speaking knights appearing in Scotland in the early decades of the 14th century in a country where French speakers would certainly be noticed.” she said.

“The story has an unpleasant result for the Scots, because it makes out that Robert Bruce was incapable of defeating the ‘all-powerful’ English, without the help of foreigners.”

The Templars’ main fighting force was wiped out at the Fall of Acre in 1291, she said. By 1307, any left with fighting skills would have been in Cyprus.

“Bruce’s battle plan at Bannockburn would have followed best contemporary practice which, as the Templars also did the same, would have meant that there were some elements in common. This does not mean that Bruce had actually met any Templars.”

The Templars rose to prominence as knights of the Crusades, guarding revered sites and castles in the Holy Land.

But on Friday, 13 October, 1307, King Philip IV of France, heavily in debt to the order, ordered the arrest of its Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, and other French Templars. Many confessed to numerous sins under torture, and Pope Clement made his order the following year.

The writer Dan Brown drew heavily on Templar stories in his 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code, which was later made into a film, claiming that the order built Rosslyn Chapel, near Edinburgh, and guarded many secrets there with their lives.

By Tim Cornwell

Deception, Lies and Gullibility

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A supposed tibia relic belonging to Mary Magdalene is making it rounds in the U.S. From the Catholic Georgia Bulletin: “The tradition of the Church is historically pretty close to being infallible in this area,” said Borgman. “King Louis XIV crawled on his knees up the mountains to venerate the relics of Mary Magdalene, and the princes of Europe and their ladies and the queens made special pilgrimages to this grotto in the 1200s. For centuries the relics were missing, disappearing from about A.D. 710, when the Saracens pillaged the south of France and the Church hid sacred objects to safeguard them. Then in 1279, the relics were discovered by Charles II of Anjou in a crypt of a chapel in the town of St. Maximin in a sarcophagus that did not have her name but tt contained a piece of old parchment dated A.D. 710, which read, ‘Here lies the body of Mary Magdalene.’ Upon discovering the bones, Charles II sealed the crypt and gathered all the bishops for an official opening and inspection. All of the bones including the skull were found intact. The only missing bone was the lower jaw bone which was later found and identified by the pope as the same jawbone that had been venerated, for centuries, as the jawbone of Mary Magdalene, at St. John Lateran Church in Rome. A letter of authentication from Bishop Dominique Rey of Frejus-Toulon indicates that the relics have been venerated, without interruption, since their rediscovery in 1279.”

The greatest hoax perpetuated on humanity has created wars, murders, subterfuge, and the enslavement of minds of a large majority of the masses. There is a vast difference between spiritual and religion. Spiritual is one’s personal connection to the Divine within. Religion is man-made and is used to control people. The current whoop-de-la regarding a tibia supposedly belonging to Mary Magdalene is part of the great deception.

During my research for my book Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls, I found that many of the relics so revered in the Catholic Churches were nothing more than animal bones. The fad of relics began in 325 A.D. when Constantine appointed his mother Helene to go to Palestine and locate relics of Judeo-Christian faiths. This move was to strengthen his newly found religion. It is reported that she found some nails of the crucifixion. Really? After 325 years, she was able to locate these when Jesus was not at this time revered as a Christ or the Son of God? This did not happen until the Council of Nicene in 325 A.D.

It was Paul who gave Jesus the title of Christ ,and Paul was not a disciple. Josephus, the noted Roman/Jewish historian is quoted widely by any scholar writing about Jesus and his life. In the first translation I read, there was no mention of Jesus or Mary Magdalene. I thought this was odd. A few months later, I again went to a translation of Josephus’ ”Jewish Antiquities.” In this version of “Jewish Antiquities” 18.3.3 there is a short paragraph regarding Jesus. It is possible that this paragraph was added later. What does this have to do with Paul?

I also discovered the books written by Ralph Ellis who has done extensive research into the bible and ancient history, especially that of ancient Egypt. In Ellis’ book Jesus, Last of the Pharaohs, Chapter VII, titled The Evangelist, pages 220-221. This is about the evangelist named Paul, formerly called Saul—the author of the Book of Acts, which is Paul’s autobiography.

Ellis also researched Josephus’ own autobiography and found amazing coincidences between Josephus and Paul/Saul. The events of their lives are almost identical, so much so that it is obvious that Josephus and Paul/Saul are the same person. It is this same Josephus, who became a turncoat as an undercover spy for the Romans. When the Romans conquered Jerusalem and destroyed its temple, Josephus, a Jew went to Rome and was given Roman citizenship. While living in Rome, he began his writing. Even though Josephus’ creation was a hoax, it is not the greatest one—or perhaps his was the beginning of the greatest hoax perpetuated by the Vatican in order to control the people and their minds. Today the Vatican is extremely wealthy and the papal palace filled with priceless objects. It is all about power. It is time the truth be revealed to those who have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. We are living in the era of revelations.

This relic myth is still believed today. A relic can be minute flakes of bone, a hair follicle, skin, as examples. In fact, there is one report of the foreskin removed at the circumcision of Jesus being a relic. The truth is that relics became a way to control the people and to have them worship these relics. In John 14:12, Jesus is quoted as saying, “”the works I do, shall ye do also, and greater works shall ye do.” In John 10:34, Jesus said in answer to the Jews who would stone him, “Is it not written in ‘your law’, I said, Ye are gods?” This is in reference to Psalms 82:6, “I ‘said, Ye are gods, and all of you sons of the Most High.” Religions slide over these verses and focus on false beliefs that Jesus died for your sins. I think it is time to take him down from the cross.

Mary Magdalene was deemed to be an adulteress and a repentant prostitute by Pope Gregory the Great in a speech given in 591 A.D. For centuries, she has been portrayed as a symbol of repentance. It was not until 1969 that the Church allegedly admitted that her being a prostitute was not in the Bible. Myths have an insidious way of being believed as being true.

This great myth regarding Mary Magdalene as being a ‘fallen woman’ has no actual foundation. In A.D. 710, anyone could have placed a piece of an old parchment reading, “Here lies the body of Mary Magdalene.” There is no doubt in my mind that Mary Magdalene was a great woman. Her presence in southern France and the Pyrenees is evident and her memory has been kept alive, and it is possible that it was the Knights Templar who realized her greatness and is responsible for the preservation of her memory.

With the revelation that Ben Hammott of the UK discovering a hidden tomb near Rennes-le-Chateau, France containing a mummified body of a female covered by a Knights Templar shroud, it is now suspect that the Catholic Church suddenly is sending a supposedly reliquary containing the tibia of Mary Magdalene around the United States. Hammott and others are working with the French government to examine this tomb and Hammott has already had the hair of the body tested for its DNA.

Having researched Rennes le Chateau extensively when I was writing my books “Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls” and “Mary Magdalene, Her Legacy,” I was well aware of the vast number of treasure seekers and read numerous books on this as well as the Knights Templar and Mary Magdalene. I visited Rennes le Chateau and the Languedoc region in 2001 and returned home with a desire to know more. I knew there had to be more than what was known at the time. I pondered why a figure of a demon or devil called Asmodeus was at the entrance of the church and why there was a sign over the church entrance stating Terribilis est locus iste and generally translated as This place is terrible.

Even though there have been many interpretations of the paintings and decorations of this church, none of the researchers gave what I call a valid translation or found Saunière’s treasure. Ben Hammott had a dedicated tenacity to search and find the secret. This led him to the discovery of bottles containing these clues, which he deciphered. In his book, “Lost Tomb of the Knights Templar: A Tomb; A Treasure; A Great Secret,” Hammott deciphered the clues Saunière had left in the bottles. On page 316 of Hammott’s book begins the deciphered statements of Saunière.

Saunière found a tomb with a mummified body covered by a tattered shroud with the Knights Templar symbol of a red cross. Saunière realized that this was the body of Jesus Christ from the crucifixion marks on the body. He realized that the Catholic Church knew the story and that Christianity is based on a lie. This is explosive information. Hammott writes that Saunière decided to preserve his information and thus we have a renovated church created by Saunière with his clues for future seekers. Hammott discovery of another message, which is apparently documents of the Knights Templar giving information that they discovered the body under the Temple in Jerusalem and brought it back to France (Gaul) reburying it in this tomb.

Although Hammott discovered a tomb not with a tattered shroud, but a seemingly intact shroud that covered the mummified corpse in it. Are there two tombs? Is one of Jesus and the second the body of Mary Magdalene? Ah mystery! Following the clues Saunière left, Hammott found a possible anointing jar and a cup that could be the wedding cup of Mary Magdalene and Jesus.

If this is so, then it does indicate the duplicity of the Vatican—the cover-up and lies over the centuries. I now perceive that the demon Asmodeus represents the Catholic Church and the phrase This place is terrible refers to religion.

Ben Hammott’s book of 680 pages is never boring. He writes with humor, and uses photos to document his journey of discovery and the DNA testing of the body as well as discussing artifacts found in the tomb. From André Doucet’s book “Saunière’s Model and the Secret of Rennes-le-Chateau,” it is written, ‘There is very little difference between Galilee, Galicia and ‘Gaule’, the area of France and England. Doucet writes that one could say that “Gallile” can be read as “en galles il est,” in Gallie (Gaule) he is.”

Can the public accept this? Probably not. The Church has over the centuries coerced, plundered, murdered, warred, and above all lied. Was there ever a Paul, formerly called Saul? What did Jesus and Mary Magdalene really teach? What are their true messages to the world? What else is to be uncovered?

http://www.magdalenescrolls.com

Bettye Johnson is the award-winning author of Secrets of the Magdalene Scrolls, an Independent Publishers Book Award Winner 2006.

MORADAS FILOSOFAIS – Princípios e Métodos da Arte Real

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palacio-quinta-da-regaleira

A Fundação Cultursintra promove, a partir de 24 de Outubro, um ciclo cultural sobre a temática das Moradas Filosofais, propondo-se assim dar maior visibilidade a uma matéria que, em Portugal, permanece ainda arredada do main-stream cultural.

O Colóquio Internacional decorrerá a 24 e 25 de Outubro, contando com a presença de especialistas das diferentes disciplinas envolvidas, como a Arquitectura, a Arte do Jardim, a Pintura, a Música, a Literatura, a Filosofia, a Emblemática e a Heráldica, bem como de amantes incondicionais da Arte, que dedicam as suas vidas ao estudo e divulgação das mais notáveis mansões e jardins europeus, regidos por Hermes.

No âmbito deste ciclo, realizar-se-ão, em fins-de-semana posteriores ao colóquio, visitas guiadas a alguns exemplos notáveis de arquitectura em território luso, cujos projecto, construção e/ou decoração foram animados por um sentido hermético.

24 DE OUTUBRO (SÁBADO)
10h00 Inscrições * | Visita guiada à Quinta da Regaleira
12h30 Inauguração do “Laboratório Alquímico” no Palácio da Regaleira
13h00 Almoço
14h30 Abertura do Colóquio Internacional
14h40 1ª SESSÃO
Richard Khaitzine “Les Demeures philosophales dans l’art religieux”
António de Macedo “Mansões Herméticas e Geometria Sagrada – do Tabernáculo
no deserto ao “Número” da Ordem de Cristo”
15h40 Debate | 16h00 Intervalo
16h30 2ª SESSÃO
Rémi Boyer “Initiation au Jardin et Initiation dans la Cité”
Manuel J. Gandra “Emblemática nas Mansões Filosofais – I”
17h30 Intervalo | 17h45 2ª SESSÃO (cont.)
Ferdinando Rizzardo “La Case dell’ Alchimista a Valdenogher”
João Luis Susano “Quinta da Regaleira – Presença de Baphomet”
18h30 Debate
19h00 Encerramento

* Condições de acesso Colóquio: € 50 | Estudantes € 30
Participação apenas num dia: € 30 | Estudantes € 20

25 DE OUTUBRO (DOMINGO)
10h30 1ª SESSÃO
Richard Khaitzine “Le domaine de Bagatelle, une Demeure Philosophale de l’architecture civile”
Manuel J. Gandra “Emblemática nas Mansões Filosofais – II”
11h30 Coffee-break
12h00 2ª SESSÃO
François Chesneau “Une demeure philosophale au cœur de la France: l’Hôtel Lallemant de Bourges”
12h30 Debate | 13h00 Almoço
14h30 3ª SESSÃO
Visionamento do documentário sobre Maurice Baskine, pintor alquimista
Paul Sanda “Os surrealistas de Cordes sur Ciel”
Paulo Brandão “Skryabin e o Acorde Místico”
16h15 Debate | 16h30 Intervalo
17h00 4ª SESSÃO
Ferdinando Rizzardo “Ermetismo a Venezia e Libreria Marciana”
João Cruz Alves “Lima de Freitas e a Topologia do Imaginal”
18h15 Debate | 18h30 Conclusões e encerramento do Colóquio
19h00 Jantar de convívio no Palácio da Regaleira
(Participação no jantar sujeita a inscrição prévia – € 25)

God is not the Creator, claims academic

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Professor Ellen van Wolde, a respected Old Testament scholar and author, claims the first sentence of Genesis “in the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth” is not a true translation of the Hebrew.

She claims she has carried out fresh textual analysis that suggests the writers of the great book never intended to suggest that God created the world — and in fact the Earth was already there when he created humans and animals.

Prof Van Wolde, 54, who will present a thesis on the subject at Radboud University in The Netherlands where she studies, said she had re-analysed the original Hebrew text and placed it in the context of the Bible as a whole, and in the context of other creation stories from ancient Mesopotamia.

She said she eventually concluded the Hebrew verb “bara”, which is used in the first sentence of the book of Genesis, does not mean “to create” but to “spatially separate”.

The first sentence should now read “in the beginning God separated the Heaven and the Earth”

According to Judeo-Christian tradition, God created the Earth out of nothing.

Prof Van Wolde, who once worked with the Italian academic and novelist Umberto Eco, said her new analysis showed that the beginning of the Bible was not the beginning of time, but the beginning of a narration.

She said: “It meant to say that God did create humans and animals, but not the Earth itself.”

She writes in her thesis that the new translation fits in with ancient texts.

According to them there used to be an enormous body of water in which monsters were living, covered in darkness, she said.

She said technically “bara” does mean “create” but added: “Something was wrong with the verb.

“God was the subject (God created), followed by two or more objects. Why did God not create just one thing or animal, but always more?”

She concluded that God did not create, he separated: the Earth from the Heaven, the land from the sea, the sea monsters from the birds and the swarming at the ground.

“There was already water,” she said.

“There were sea monsters. God did create some things, but not the Heaven and Earth. The usual idea of creating-out-of-nothing, creatio ex nihilo, is a big misunderstanding.”

God came later and made the earth livable, separating the water from the land and brought light into the darkness.

She said she hoped that her conclusions would spark “a robust debate”, since her finds are not only new, but would also touch the hearts of many religious people.

She said: “Maybe I am even hurting myself. I consider myself to be religious and the Creator used to be very special, as a notion of trust. I want to keep that trust.”

A spokesman for the Radboud University said: “The new interpretation is a complete shake up of the story of the Creation as we know it.”

Prof Van Wolde added: “The traditional view of God the Creator is untenable now.”

How to seek the Holy Grail one hour from London

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Hertford is a medieval town dense with original buildings from the 1400s that seem to sink in on themselves under the weight of their very antiquity. If Hertford makes the news, it’s usually about the progress of the local cricket team. That all changed in 2004, when the local Acheson brothers told the town newspaper that a network of booby-trapped secret tunnels ran underneath the town, used for unspecified rituals and filled with precious objects. In a letter to the Vatican, Tim Acheson signed himself ‘the secretary of the council of chaplains on behalf of the grand master of the poor fellow soldiers of Jesus Christ and the temple of Solomon grand preceptory.’

In normal English, that means he represents the knights templar. Who? The knights have long been suspected of hoarding the Holy Grail somewhere, having picked it up in Jerusalem during the crusades. They were supposed to be destroyed on the original Friday the 13th of October, 1307, when the pope denounced them as heretics and burned their grand master to death (as you do). Four templars were imprisoned in Hertford Castle. Apparently some escaped however; the order registered as an official NGO with the UN in 2002. The Holy Grail has been a kind of global treasure hunt for centuries. Why should it be found? Perhaps it can turn water into wine, or heal the sick, but no-one’s quite certain.

Local gossip

‘There’s no evidence at all about any of these rumours,’ says the receptionist at the Hertford tourist office. ‘They say there’s a tunnel under this shop, but I can tell you there isn’t.’ Nor can she recommend any sightseeing for a tourist interested in local history and the knights templar. ‘No.’ A museum, the castle perhaps? ‘You could look in the library, if you’re interested in history.’ Unwittingly, the hostile receptionist directs me to the right place, because the local librarian is full of gossip. ‘A local guy once put up his hand and said ‘I’m a templar, I know about the tunnels,’ but he was hushed up very quickly,’ she tells me. ‘The tunnels are supposed to start under Lussmans, which is owned by the (Acheson) family. There was lots of talk about that.’

It’s odd that the tourist office seems so reluctant to take advantage of all the interest in the town’s history. It did wonders for the Rosslyn church, for example, which was saved from possible closure by the massive tourist interest that followed The Da Vinci Code (2006). The librarian agrees. ‘They were trying to attract tourists to Hertford. I suppose they just didn’t want people coming in, digging up the roads. A lot of film crews came, journalists asking questions. Especially Japanese film crews. But the town council really played down the issue, they kept quiet on it.’

Grail rites

Conspiracy theory website The Insider has information about the stained glass windows in St. Andrews church. Apparently Jesus and Mary Magdalene gaze meaningfully at each other, a staff sprouting new leaves represents the heretical theory of Jesus producing heirs, and the St. John is holding the grail itself. Interestingly, The Insider domain name is registered to none other than Tim Acheson. When I call in to St Andrews the parishioners are having their coffee morning. The church warden is delighted to give me a tour. He points out a golden chalice in the window. In the handle of the cup is a tiny model of a church. ‘That’s the church in Scotland, Rosslyn, or so they say. The one in The Da Vinci Code.’

Beckwiths is an antique shop situated in the second oldest building in Hertford and looks suitably saggy, like a top-heavy Victoria sponge. Inside, it’s stuffed with suspicious objects; a large portrait of a medieval knight leans against the back wall, and a selection of handsome swords are on sale. At the back of the shop I discover an ancient spiral staircase leading underground: ‘Do not enter during prayer or reading of the scriptures.’ If grail rites are happening anywhere in Hertford, it must be here. The owner is enthusiastic about local history, glad to chat. ‘We do get some chalices,’ he tells me. ‘The really old stuff goes very quickly.’ He contradicts the tourist information I was given. ‘There are tunnels alright, but many of them are blocked up, they’re probably dangerous. Some friends of mine lived on West Street – they’ve sold the house now – but they had a tunnel under their house.’ Down the spiral staircase is a basement he’s been digging out: ‘We found a medieval oven down there, hidden in the wall. Hidden in beside it, there was a child’s shoe, tucked away. Apparently it’s a good luck thing; they would hide a shoe, something to do with baking bread. Anyway it stayed in there until we found it.’ It seems that those looking for mystery and intrigue in Hertford will certainly find it.

Guide: the best rumoured locations of the Holy Grail in Europe and beyond

Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

Henry St Clair, purportedly a Scottish templar, is rumoured to have travelled to Nova Scotia and hidden the grail in the so called ‘money pit’, a mysterious depression on Oak Island discovered in 1795. Excavations revealed a stone tablet, since lost, inscribed with code telling of the location of buried treasure

Rosslyn chapel, Scotland

Built by the same St Clair family, the 15th century church is full of carvings associated with the knights templar such as two knights riding on one horse, a symbol of their initial poverty. The layout of the chapel is said to mirror that of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, where the knights templar were based during the crusades. Features in The Da Vinci Code

Cathedral of Valencia, Spain

Historians have identified that the cathedral’s santo cáliz (Holy Chalice) was made in Palestine or Egypt between the 4th century BC and the 1st century AD. It was allegedly carried by St. Peter to Rome, and the first mention of it as the vessel in which ‘Christ Our Lord consecrated his blood’ dates from 1134

Nanteos Mansion, Wales

The location of the Nanteos cup, a wooden vessel reputed to have healing powers. In the 18th century water that had been held in it was sold as medicine around the world and it was visited by pilgrims including Thomas Wagner, Guy de Maupassant and Algernon Swinburne. Its current location is a closely guarded secret.

by Naomi O’leary

Runestone to be on TV

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A new angle on the Runestone puts Kensington on the map for history buffs.

“The Holy Grail in America” is scheduled to air on The History Channel.

The two-hour documentary, produced by Maria Awes, a former WCCO producer, and her husband, Andy Awes, investigates a story that begins in medieval Europe and culminates in a present day search for answers.

Local footage includes a reenactment of the discovery of the stone at the Kensington Runestone Park with Corey Okonek playing the role of Olaf Ohman and Michael O’Loughlin playing the role of Ohman’s neighbor.

In addition, footage was shot in the Olaf Ohman home located at the park. Filming also took place at the Runestone Museum in Alexandria and of the actual Kensington Runestone.

The story, according to The History Channel, begs the question: “Is it possible the Templars were leaving clues to an incredible journey to the New World?”

History indicates that the Templars were massacred after King Philip IV of France ordered their arrests on Friday the 13th, 1307, but that a Templar fleet allegedly containing treasure was last seen off Scotland in the late 1300s. Stones with similar markings as the Kensington Runestone have been found on islands across the Atlantic Ocean – and in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

According to Maria Awes, the Templar angle of the story is new and that it stems from erosion studies conducted on the Runestone. The symbols on the Runestone reportedly match Templar runes all over Europe.

The Kensington Runestone has been a subject of controversy since Ohman found the stone in 1898. This documentary shares the new evidence, one more clue to the truth behind this local treasure.